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Review of Lockdown by Peter May

Lockdown by Peter May

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Cover - Lockdown by Peter May
Cover – Lockdown by Peter May


📖 I loved the premise of this book but I especially loved the Foreword. May began researching and writing this book in 2005, but there was little interest in the book world for it and some editors thought the idea of London in lockdown too far-fetched. If only they’d known then what we do now.

✍️The book itself centres around detective Jack McNeil who is asked to investigate the mystery of a murdered child’s bones. Jack himself is on the last day of the job instead of taking things easy and wrapping up he finds himself on a chase across London to unravel the case. His own family are hit with heartbreak in relation to the virus.

🗣 I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

(Page 273)
‘I’ll scream!’ she said in a voice made so tiny by fear that it barely penetrated the dark.
MacNeil said breathlessly, ‘If you scream, then so will I.’
Something in his voice stopped her struggling. She lay on the ground below him, gasping for breath, a strange wiry creature in a tweed jacket and skirt with a white blouse and pearl necklace. ‘Who the hell are you?’ she gasped.
‘Detective Inspector Jack MacNeil. Who the hell are you?’

👓 I would just like to mention I love Peter May’s work. His Lewis trilogy is a personal favourite, and I would highly recommend that collection to anyone. I wish stars were out of 10 instead of 5 as this book is a solid 7 out of 10.

👫 Jack McNeil is a great character. Your usual flawed policeman, with a troubled family/home life and a girlfriend within the medical department. All quite cliché but you do warm to him and find yourself willing him to succeed.

Dr Sarah Castelli is another great character. A clever, fearless, sixty-year-old Canadian. She’s tough as old boots and will do anything to get the answers she needs. The only problem with Dr Sarah Castelli is that despite the pivotal part she plays in the book and particularly the finale, we are only just introduced to her on page 277 of a 399-page book. I feel like such a crucial character to the plot should have been introduced and established earlier, not just thrown in towards the end.

🗺 This book is set in London and whilst it is probably trying to be realistic (and perhaps to Londoners it is), for me, it felt a bit like we were being dragged from pillar to post with every great London eye mark thrown in for effect.

💭 Overall View: I did enjoy this book and Peter May’s writing style is brilliant. The characters were interesting and the plot was clearly very well researched. I wish the book had maybe been edited a bit to tie some of the strands together a bit neater. You would think everyone would avoid the mention of Lockdown never mind actively choosing to read about it, but I’m glad I did. Brilliant crime drama, very dark in places, fast-paced and full of action.

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Cover: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
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Review of The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am very late to discover Jon Ronson and The Psychopath Test which appears to now be a cult classic. To be honest, I’d never heard of it, but came across it in a store and was intrigued by the title, the cover and then the blurb. It was reasonably priced, so I decided to give it a go and I am so pleased I did.

Firstly, this book is non-fiction (I mostly read fiction and honestly when you read parts of this you might mistake it for a psychological thriller).

This story is what it says on the cover, a journey. So, you learn more and more about what it means to be a psychopath and how they are defined (these days). The book starts with a strange hoax that has been sent to a variety of individuals in the world.

Cover: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
Cover: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

It then introduces us to The Hare Psychopathy checklist, the standard screening test for potential psychopaths. Suddenly, armed with this material Jon is finding everyone around him seems to have these psychopathic traits (and indeed many do as most people display some symptoms of psychopathy). Jon is particularly interested in the business world after finding out psychopaths are found in greater proportions among CEOs and indeed meets some very interesting individuals in the process.

Alongside this is the story of Tony. Tony committed GBH at the age of seventeen and in an attempt to evade the prison system decided to feign madness. He was then imprisoned in Broadmoor. He then had the difficult job of convincing people he was sane and twelve years on still hadn’t. As he says, how do you sit in a sane way, how do you act in a sane way? With psychologists watching your every move the more normal you try to act, the more self-conscious you become. It becomes a vicious cycle. So, is he a psychopath or not? Well, that’s what Jon tries to figure it.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style.
GRAPHIC CONTENT
Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘One of my old buds from the FBI was investigating this woman, Karla Homolka,’ Bob had told me earlier. ‘She and her husband had videotaped themselves torturing and raping and murdering these young women. The police were taking her through the house where they’d cut up the bodies, carved them up, and Karla was saying, “My sister would like that rug…”. They took her into the bathroom and Karla was saying, “Can I ask you something? I had a bottle of perfume here…” Totally disconnected.’

As mentioned above, some of the writing and scenes are quite graphic, as you can imagine they would be in a book of this kind, dealing with mental health and violence.

💭 Overall View: I really enjoyed this book. I’ve never really read anything like it before. I did study psychology in college when I was younger so I do have an interest in this topic and understanding how people’s minds work. It’s odd and it’s not the quickest read but it is interesting and I find myself reflecting back on it.

P.s. Jon has also done a TED talk on this book which people may find interesting.

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Review of “The Silent Tide” – 4 Stars

The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Relaxation = Book and a bath. 😍

With a small child around I don’t get as much reading time as I’d like but with this book I have found myself squeezing it in at every opportunity. LO watching night garden, hello next chapter. 😉

The book is a dual timeline following the stories of Emily and Isabel. In present-day London, Emily is an up-and-coming editor who is helping a young biographer publish the life of a now-deceased famous writer, Hugh Morton. When mystery parcels begin to turn up at Emily’s work telling the story of Isabel, Hugh’s first wife, Emily becomes obsessed with Isabel’s story and must know more.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

After a week of tense waiting she asked Stephen, ‘I don’t suppose you’ve had time to read that report on Hugh Morton’s book I left you?’
‘Ah, I’m sorry, I forgot to tell you about that,’ Stephen replied with a guilty look, and her hopes fell. But then he said, ‘The author’s coming in next week. I’ll make sure the two of you are introduced.’
‘We’re publishing the book?’ she asked, in surprise and not a little anger. She was used to not being told much, to having to pick up information through opening the post or by correspondence she was asked to type, but she was hurt that he hadn’t mentioned anything about this project.

Starting in 1948 we follow the story of Isabel. Isabel is working hard to find her place and forge a career in a man’s world in London. Having run away from home she is determined to manage life on her own. When she is given extra responsibility at work she relishes the challenge and after meeting a handsome young debut author soon her work and personal life begin to merge. Yet as these worlds merge she begins to struggle to keep her independence and personal identity.

I loved the characters in this book, especially those featured in Isabel’s story. Berec is a particularly interesting sub-character and I liked the hints the author left regarding how difficult someone in his situations life would have been at that time period, yet his jovial attitude was uplifting just when the book needed it. Hugh makes a great bad guy, that’s not all that bad, just attitudes of that time.

I must admit, the 40/50’s is a time period I don’t know much about, being so close to our own (for a historical history novel) it is easy to picture certain things, yet attitudes and opportunities certainly for young ladies, was different and I think the author does a great job in capturing this.

The timeline shifts were handled well with clear indications of the time period and most of Isabel’s story was told through manuscript extracts of Isabel’s memoirs.

This novel also touches on the fragile emotional state of post-natal depression. This can be difficult reading but is nonetheless a fact of life and would have been much less understood in the time period.

Any Negatives? Not negative as such but I did enjoy Berec’s story and think it has a place to be told in more detail (perhaps a little novella). I also found Lydia a strange character, meek at first then emboldened later on. I feel to be more true to life, she would have been less forgiving and more resentful of Isabel’s choices. None of this detracts from the main story of Isabel or Emily though.

Overall View: A really interesting book. A strong and engaging storyline that really had me reading at every opportunity. It was a compelling and addictive read. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

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Extract - The Silent Tide
Extract – The Silent Tide

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Review of Anti-Social by Nick Pettigrew

Anti-Social: The Secret Diary of an Anti-Social Behaviour Officer by Nick Pettigrew

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Anti-Social is a diary showing the day to day aspects of being an AS officer. His insight into life with individuals (and families) with a variety of problems; crime, drugs, mental health issues, elderly, isolation, court cases, tenancy disputes and more.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

14 September
Not a good day. Tim calls our team and says he has serious concerns for the wellbeing of his neighbour, as well as the wellbeing of his own kids. Tim’s next door neighbour is Anne, who’s in her seventies and lives with her son Alex. And Tim worries that if something isn’t done soon, Alex is going to end up killing his mum.
Tim tells me that Anne can be heard pleading with Alex to leave her alone and to get out of the flat. This is usually accompanied with thuds and crashes, and Alex screaming abuse at his mum.

This book is interesting, it thrusts you straight into the office of a community worker from the first page, showing sometimes the only things that will get you through the day are a dark sense of humour, prescription meds and copious amounts of alcohol and Nick doesn’t shy away from telling us those facts and the toll this job can take on your mental health. It feels like a truly honest reflection (the good, the bad and the ugly).

Cover of Anti-Social by Nick Pettigrew
Cover: Anti-Social

The author offers both compassion and empathy were needed but also doesn’t shy away from the nastier individuals he comes across. He offers genuine insight into the paperwork, the funding issues, the court cases and more. There were often times on a few of his more sensitive cases when it really hits you in the gut just how hard life is for some of the individuals involved in these cases.
I would genuinely recommend this book. It’s the darker side of humanity with often the only lightness being the author’s wit. I feel anyone in the sector, particularly senior management level and above, MPs and probably the courts too, need to read this to better understand the individuals, the paperwork, and more. It’s probably the closest they will get to walking in another person’s shoes and it just might help make better-informed decisions and changes the sector needs.

I have read many books like this that give you insight into someone else’s profession (and life). Confessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels is a similar book with some equally thought-provoking scenarios for those interested in further reading.

Overall View: Brilliant, upsetting, challenging, funny, emotional and more.

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Review of The Skylight by Louise Candlish

The Skylight: Quick Reads 2021 by Louise Candlish

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The skylight is a crime thriller set in a built-up suburban area. Simone and Jake live on the top two floors of a shared building. Their neighbours Gus and Alina live downstairs and live a life Simone is envious of. Simone soon realises she can watch them through their skylight (and does frequently).

When Simone sees Jake, her partner spending time over at the neighbours house her envy steps up a gear and Simone begins a neighbourly feud which could have deadly consequences.

I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. The Skylight is a fast-paced plot-driven story, it meets the quick read criteria perfectly.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘I just saw Alina in the hall,’ he tells me one evening.
‘Oh yes? How is our local mean girl?’
‘Simone,’ he protests.
‘Well, she is.’
‘I’m sure she’s okay underneath it all.’
What, without her clothes on, I think.

This story is told from the viewpoint of Simone, a classic unreliable narrator. Simone tells the reader a story that cannot be taken at face value. It’s difficult to tell if she is insane, deluded or just malicious but you can feel the tension from her from the very first page. This makes the story all the more believable, how many people can’t stand their neighbours. Add in extreme jealousy to that mix and it’s a boiling pot ready to bubble over.

I don’t know how others would take it but I particularly loved the ending. Sharp and clever.
My first time reading Louise Candlish’s work but I would definitely be interested in reading a full novel if this is her calibre of storytelling.

Overall View: Under 100 pages. Dark, deceptive, witty, tension-filled. Amazing work in so few pages.

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Extract - The Skylight
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Review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ruby Pier amusement park maintenance worker Eddie is 83. Spotting a problem with one of the rides he rushes to help, upon spotting a small child dangerously close to the ride, Eddie dives to save her. That is the last thing he remembers, he awakens, young, no longer aching and with a guide ready to reveal the story of Eddie’s life. Eddie’s next journey begins, with many flashbacks to his life on earth.



I honestly think this is one of the best books I have read in a while. I’m not entirely certain what genre it is, spiritual, personal discovery with a dash of adventure. I bought this from an independent bookshop, drawn in initially by the title and then the blurb. It’s not a genre or an author I have read before, but I really enjoyed it.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Eddie was skeptical. His fists stayed clenched.
“What?” he said.
“There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”
Eddie shook his head. “We were throwing a ball. It was my stupidity, running out there like that. Why should you have to die on account of me? It ain’t fair.”
The Blue Man held out his hand. “Fairness,” he said, “does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”

This book is mainly told through Eddie’s eyes or memories but with each guide they also present a snapshot of their stories, how Eddie interacted with them, seeing the things he couldn’t see. It was such a clever representation of “walking in another man’s shoes”.

I loved the range of characters in this book. Each one interesting and complex, yet ultimately simple. They did their best with what they knew. This book is so beautifully crafted. The writer really compels you to think about your actions and interactions big and small. So much of the story resonates with events we all have in our lives, angers we hold onto, opportunities we think we have missed, yet it shows the other side of the coin, the light, the things we gain in return for losses. Its messages are subtle but thought-provoking.

Overall View: An emotional rollercoaster ride of a book. It was everything I had hoped to find in the title and so much more. The novel actually leaves you feeling uplifted and full of hope. This book will stay with me for a really, really long time and I would happily recommend, even encourage others to read it.

I actually bought this book from a cute little independent bookshop in Richmond named Castle Hill Book Shop. Tucked off down a little side street away from the market square and castle I was delighted to come across this little hidden gem and in turn, find this wonderful little book. The beauty of supporting an independent bookshop is being drawn to treasures like these that I would be very unlikely ever to have found by browsing online. After all this time, I still love the magic of a bookshop.

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Review of The Baby is Mine.

The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


After being thrown out of his house, Bambi goes to stay in his deceased uncle’s house. He is surprised when he gets there to find not only his Auntie but also Esohe, the woman with whom his uncle had an affair. Also in the house is a baby boy; both women claim to be his mother. Strange events start to escalate in the house and soon Bambi is fearing the little boy’s wellbeing, he needs to figure out who the mother is before it is too late.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

Esohe’s eyes widened. She seemed surprised that she was being thrown out, which was odd, considering the battle these two were in. I watched as Esohe’s mouth opened and shut. But then her eyes narrowed and she tilted her head to one side. We waited for her to say something. And finally she did.
‘No.’
‘What?’
‘I’m not going anywhere. In fact, the house belongs to my baby and me now. This is Folu’s gift to us.

I liked this book. It is part of the “quick reads” collection which I like to intersperse between larger novels. The idea of this collection is exactly as it says on the tin (or should that be cover), a shorter than normal book by world-leading authors. One of the things I quite like about these books is that they force the authors to cut out a lot of the waffle that sometimes goes on in books. This keeps the stories quite fast-paced with a lot happening in less time. The Baby is mine is a fast-paced plot-driven story, it meets the quick read criteria perfectly.

Bambi is a really great character who goes from being really quite selfish and self-centred to caring for the little boy, his safety and his future.

I also really liked the fact this briefly book covered covid and lockdown making it feel really relevant to what the world has been going through. It added to the stories tension without making it too dry.

Overall View: Affairs, death, epidemics, family drama. A lot of story in 104 pages. I am really looking forward to reading more of this author’s work.

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Extract – The Baby is Mine
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Review of The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine

For a long time, Barbara Erskine has held the crown of queen of time-slip novels and this novel proves to be no exception to that title. The detail, particularly in the historical viewpoints is just exceptional.

For a long time, Barbara Erskine has held the crown of queen of time-slip novels and this novel proves to be no exception to that title. The detail, particularly in the historical viewpoints is just exceptional.

This book primarily follows Bea Dalloway, a psychic cleanser (for want of a better word) who quietly helps souls move on to a more restful place. When she is called out to historian Simon’s cottage, she soon realises there is more going on there than she expected to find. Soon Bea finds herself observing the Saxon age, primarily Eadburgh daughter of Offa.

When Eadburgh begins to also haunt Emma, Simon’s teenage daughter, Bea becomes scared there are other dark forces at play. Emma has no control over her abilities and Bea must quickly show her how to protect herself, but the pull of the past may just be too much for Emma to resist.
I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

‘Well, you can’t believe anything they say,’ Eadburgh retorted. ‘He might have chosen any of us. Me, for instance. I may be the youngest but I’m the prettiest!’
‘Her sisters both laughed. ‘I think we can guess who he has in store for you.’ Alfrida fixed Eadburgh with a mocking gaze. ‘He’s obviously got the puppy from Powys lined up for you.’
Eadburgh stared at her. ‘Who?’
‘Prince Elisedd.’ Alfrida giggled. ‘Why else would he send you off with him to stare at a line of wooden stakes and a thousand men carrying baskets of mud for his wretched rampart when he could have sent one of his surveyors. Marriage is the best way to ensure peace between the kingdoms. He’s told us often enough.’

This book contains a great range of characters; Bea and Emma are at the forefront of the modern storyline but there is a great supporting cast. Emma’s father Simon, a historical novelist and initially non-believer is a great character. Bea’s husband Mark is a cannon connected to the local cathedral. This brings in a Christian element to the story which is a great mix. I also loved that Barbara Erskine gave a nod to Meryn Jones, a druid who had occasionally appeared in her earlier books. It would have been great to see him brought in more (maybe for future books).

This book has mixed settings. The modern storyline is set around Offa’s Dyke and the Hereford area, in the historic timeline it starts in that setting, but later features the Kingdom of Wessex and the court of Charlemagne. This is one area where Barbara Erskine’s writing really shines for me, she captures so many of these past elements beautifully and it really feels like you are listening in to court squabbles and wandering along the herb gardens.

One of my favourite things about Barbara Erskine’s novels are the little extra’s she adds, in this novel she has included Anglo-Saxon maps, history on Offa and his children and even a glossary of Welsh words.

Any Negatives? As others have mentioned online, there are quite a few spelling mistakes in this first edition. This doesn’t detract from the story and can easily be overlooked.
I did feel slightly disappointed in the storyline of Sandra, I thought that was likely to have a darker element like some of Barbara’s earlier books but it didn’t really lead there, again this didn’t really take away from the main story which was still incredibly strong.

Overall View: Brilliant story. Great use of the spiritual Pagan/Christian/New Age elements. Enjoyed learning snippets about this particular time in history. I can’t wait for the next book.

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Review of Right, Said Fred

Right, Said Fred by Freddie Flintoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Freddie Flintoff’s pearls of wisdom on an eclectic array of topics. Of course, the obligatory cricket is covered (I am not particularly a fan of the sport but Freddie’s descriptions help to make it sound more interesting), Top Gear (Woohoo) and many other random facts and ideas from all other aspects of his life.

I’ll be honest, I’m not often a fan of these celebrity, blow-their-own trumpet, did they even really write them, autobiographies, but for some reason, I was drawn to Freddie’s. I adore him in his new role at top gear, his camaraderie with the team is brilliant. I have found him quite hilarious in many of his other TV roles, so after reading his earlier book “Do you know what?”, which genuinely had me laughing out loud at times, I thought I’d give this one a go too and I was not disappointed.

Much of the book is very funny. The writing style is great, and it does feel like he is actually talking, having a conversation in his own words, not what some journalist thinks he should be saying. It felt like a real insight into his personal and professional life. In fact, it often feels like a conversation with a bloke down the pub, putting the world to rights and questioning the bizarre and intriguing in the world that rarely tends to pop up in day-to-day conversation.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

When my fourth child was born, I didn’t tell anyone about it apart from family. I did an interview in Australia for Ninja Warrior and the bloke said, ‘I understand your wife is expecting your fourth child’, and I replied, ‘Yeah, it’ll be brilliant when it happens.’ The fact was, he was already about three months old. I just didn’t think anyone apart from family needed to know about it.

Any Negatives: Not quite as funny as “Do you know what?”. I genuinely laughed out loud reading parts of that book. But it’s still really pretty good.

Overall View: Honestly, highly recommended. Freddie comes across as open, honest, likeable and so much more human than the media persona everyone thinks they know. Funny with a tad of seriousness when needed. A bit of light-hearted reading which after 2020, I think we all needed.

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Extract – Right, Said Fred

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Review of The Auschwitz Violin – 5 Stars

The Auschwitz Violin by Maria Àngels Anglada

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The book opens with a meeting between an older lady violinist and a charmed young man instantly captivated by her, her playing and her instrument, a friendship blossoms and he asks the story of the violin. This leads us to the extraordinary story of Daniel, and his imprisonment at Auschwitz.

I often think it’s useful to see an extract of a book to get an idea of the writing style. Here is a brief extract so that you can see a sample of the writing yourself:

’Occupation?’
The question had seemed inoffensive enough, but not everyone had the good fortune to be asked. Those who were selected immediately to die – children, old men and women, the infirm – stood in another line.
Daniel was quick to reply;
‘Carpenter, cabinetmaker.’
It was a half-lie. The answer had risen from deep within the recesses of his mind; only later would he reason it out. It was as if someone had dictated it to him.

This book has it all. Sometimes it is soft and gentle and it beautifully captures the love that violin makers have for their craft. It also has many harrowing details of the treatment and suffering of those at Auschwitz. It sweeps you up and you find yourself desperately hoping that Daniel both completes his beloved violin and more importantly lives.

This is a truly haunting tale that stays with you after you finish reading it. Indeed, despite being an avid reader, I found myself taking a break after reading this book, not yet quite ready to leave it behind and enter another world.

Any Negatives: The book is a translation and at times it can feel a little out of sequence. However, this really did not detract from the fabulous storytelling and intent of the author.

Overall View: This is a great story, capturing both the brutalities of the holocaust and the hope that all humans have that things will one day get better. The book is an easy, enjoyable read, and it certainly makes you stop and think.

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Extract – The Auschwitz Violin